New York Knicks‘ third overall pick RJ Barrett will be entering his sophomore season with a chip on his shoulder after the All-Rookie Team snub.
Barret, despite averaging 14.6 points on 40/32/61 shooting splits, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists, still came 13 votes short of making it to the All-Rookie Team. With that snub as a backdrop, Barrett came to the Knicks’ organized team activity looking ripped and sharp.
New head coach Tom Thibodeau was pleased with what he saw initially from Barrett, who was identified by team president Leon Rose as one of the franchise’s cornerstones together with third-year center Mitchell Robinson.
During Thibodeau’s media availability via Zoom call today, SNY’s Ian Begley asked Thibodeau about his first impression on Barrett. Here’s what he had to say:
“It’s been great. Obviously, there’s a lot of work to be done. These are the initial steps. And so, I think the offseason is critical for any young player so obviously you could get going on with the development piece which I think is critical but that holds true for all our players. But he’s been great, he’s been eager. He’s working hard and if he does that day after day, he will improve quite a bit.”
During last week’s individual workouts, Barrett immediately hooked up with new associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, who is known for his developmental chops.
Thibodeau was left impressed with Bryant’s teaching ability that has helped develop the likes of Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell while in Utah.
“It’s been great because Johnnie is someone I got to know a little bit when I was travelling around. I have great respect for the people in Utah. The thing that stood out when I went out to Utah and spend time with them, it was Johnnie’s teaching ability. You know when I heard that we have the opportunity to hire him, I have spent time with him prior to his hiring and I came away impress with him,” Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau also added that the offseason is usually “the time when you can add to your game, learn something new and you never want to stop learning,” which was the approach and the attitude that he saw not only from Barrett but from the whole team.
During the hiatus, Barrett has also worked on his shooting form with renowned skills coach Drew Hanlen, who has an impressive roster of NBA clients that include Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, and Zach LaVine.